Somehow, an older digital or film camera is occupying space on a shelf in your closet, or taking up room in a drawer somewhere. Or, maybe a loved one has died and his or her photography gear has been entrusted to you. Or, maybe you just decided to hang on to that early-model 6-megapixel DSLR that you used 10 years ago.
People often ask me, “Todd, what can I do with old photo equipment?”
Well, besides the obvious, there are some interesting options that can give your camera gear new life, help others, or maybe even reinvigorate your own love for photography.
Here is a quick list, followed by a more comprehensive look at each option:
2. Donate to Schools
3. Donate to Charities
If you need some cash to buy more photo gear, you can sell your camera equipment.
Locally, you could drop it off at a consignment shop in the hopes that a collector or hoarder comes across your once-loved camera and lenses and decides they cannot live without all of it. You could also list your gear on an auction website and see if you can stir up a bidding war among strangers. Additionally, you can put an ad in the local newspaper classified section or website.
If you want to maximize convenience, you can easily sell your gear to B&H and let us resell it. The B&H Used Department will tell you exactly how much you will get for your gear, and we will even pay to ship the gear to our SuperStore in New York City. You can get a check in the mail or a store credit with which you can then feed your current camera or electronics buying habits.
A word of caution: if you are passionate about photography, your chance of regretting selling your very first camera is approximately 100%. Regardless of the make or model, you might want to hold onto that camera. I know many photographers who still have their first camera and I know many who regret no longer having that bit of personal history.
Donate to schools
An often overlooked option is donating your gear to a good cause.
You can likely find a local charity or thrift store that would have no hesitation about taking gear off your hands, but dig a bit deeper and you might find some, arguably, more deserving outlets. Check with your local high school to see if they teach photography as part of their art program. Likely, they would love to be able to give or loan your film camera gear to a student who might not have the financial means to acquire his or her own. They might also warmly embrace your dusty darkroom equipment.
In fact, any educational institution—from grade schools to community colleges to art schools—may accept your donated camera gear.
Donate to charities
There are several photography-related charities that accept used gear.
The Film Photography Project donates film cameras to school and student programs around the world.
Recycling for Charities recycles electronics and gives the value of what you send them to a charity of your choice.
PhotoVoice builds participatory photography and storytelling self-advocacy projects for socially excluded groups in the UK and internationally.
The One Shot Project provides cameras to young disadvantaged children in Iraq.
Josephine Herrick Project (formerly Rehabilitation Through Photography) provides free photographic education programs to children, teens, adults, and seniors.
NYC Salt engages students through professionally led volunteer instruction in photography and digital technology.
Definitely do some Internet searching to find other charities that might want your gear. Non-profit organizations are sometimes very happy to have donated camera equipment at their disposal. And your donation will very likely be tax deductible.
Regardless of the value of your gear, you cannot put a price on the act of giving your photo equipment to a worthy cause. You never know; your camera could end up in the hands of the world’s next great photographic artist.
Having something newer, faster, or shinier might be just what you need in order to use your older camera and lenses for something fun.
Have you ever wanted to experiment with infrared photography? Or, have you thought about making your own homemade lens mount to affix random old lenses to your camera? This might be a great time to try something outside of the box. What about converting your old film camera into a pinhole camera? That might be a fun thing to try.
You can get cheap imported knick-knacks from your local home accessory store, or you can put your cool cameras on the living room shelf. I’ve decorated with a few cameras, but sometimes I take them out to go get some exercise.
Of course, an older, slower digital camera can be put into duty as a trusty backup for that new digital camera. Electronics and mechanicals are not infallible, and your trusty new steed might not be so trusty one day. Having a backup camera within reach might save the day, be it on a commercial shoot or remote vacation. Or, on occasion, you might have the opportunity to do a photo shoot in which your camera could be subject to bodily harm—photographing on a boat, at the beach, against a rock wall, wing-suit flying, parasailing, etc. Shoots of this type might be best reserved for your older gear, rather than putting your newer, more expensive gear at risk.
You might already be on your fourth or fifth generation of digital camera. If that were the case, you’d be hard pressed for a reason to take your old digital camera out for a stroll. Why would you go out to shoot a 6-megapixel Nikon D100 when your D500’s battery is fully charged?
But, a film camera might be another story. Film is film and not subject to the ridiculously short half-life of digital technology. Therefore, as long as the camera’s shutter and/or the lens’s aperture diaphragm are working, you can go out and shoot a roll of film. There is something liberating about not having to worry about histograms, batteries, checking your LCD after every shot, or spending hours in front of your computer downloading and processing images after a day of shooting.
Here is a bold idea: take your film camera on your next vacation and leave your digital stuff behind. Do you remember vacation photo albums that you could show your friends?
Film still has a place in the world so, just because you have been shooting digitally for months or years, don’t think that your film camera is suddenly a doorstop or a paperweight. Get out and shoot some film!
Pass it on
The last place your camera should end up is: the rubbish pile. Sell it, give it to someone who could really use it, experiment, or just keep using it. A good camera can be passed from one generation to the next.